Town Talk Features

The Honest Truth: Thanksgiving & College Conundrums

My sister-in-law is a terrible cook and insists on hosting Thanksgiving every few years. She’s an emotional wreck by the time the food is served, it’s barely edible and everyone dreads it. Solutions to preserve family harmony?

Jill: I’d suggest a good old fashioned potluck. (If the family is too posh for potlucking, have it catered.) Offer to sit down and plan it all out with your sister-in-law. Sometimes disorganized people like hosting, but they’re bad at details. If she insists on cooking, snack ahead of time and be patient if the wheels fall off the bus. Pizza delivery when you get home is always an option.

Beth: Holidays are fraught with opportunities for disappointment. In your situation, either you will be disappointed by your sister-in-law’s food or she’ll be disappointed to learn she’s a horrible cook. I like Jill’s idea. Ordering some food can take the pressure off of everyone and bring the focus back to spending time together—which is the most important part of Thanksgiving.

Our oldest is in the thick of the college search. It’s so stressful! Sometimes it seems like everyone has lost their minds in this process. How do we stay sane with all of the pressure?

Jill: I’ve been through this twice in the last five years, and I say with full confidence that everyone needs to chill the hell out. The pressure on our kids is out of control. One good thing about the admissions cheating scandal? It spotlighted the insanity that’s infected the process. Parents get way too hung up on bragging rights. Elite colleges convince everyone to apply and then reject most just to improve their selectivity rankings. Ask yourself, “Can my child be incredibly comfortable in her own skin at this school?” That’s the best measure of whether your student will thrive in college.

Beth: Colleges have raised the admissions stakes and stress levels about as quickly as they’ve raised tuition. How to stay sane? For self-motivated students: Help them understand the process is not personal and they’ll succeed wherever they go to college (hard work and grit do pay off). For less motivated or procrastinating students: Make sure they have good resources in place. Then, you won’t have to be a nag. For all students, identify and celebrate a realistic back-up plan. Finally, be the parent who believes it will all work out in the end. Your calm demeanor can help your child—and others—enjoy senior year.

Jill Farmer is a master certified life coach, author and time management aficionado. Beth Chesterton is a master certified executive coach and an expert in organizational development.  If you have a question that needs an honest answer, email